Showing posts with label Magic School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Magic School. Show all posts

Monday, July 1, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Mystical Companions (5e)

Over the weekend I was thinking about my Magic School game and what I want to add to it.  One thing became instantly obvious to me was I needed to have familiars. Nearly every 5e game I have run the players have wanted pets, animal companions and familiars.   Thankfully for me, I already own the perfect book.


The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars.   It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version.   I have both in digital and PDF formats, but today I am going to focus solely on the 5th Edition version.  Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.

I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or BECMI D&D) or (now) D&D 5th Edition.  I think that highly of it.

Mystical Companions for 5th Edition Role Playing
208 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. PDF and Hardcover.
For this review, I am reading primarily from the digital PDF version, but it applies to the hardcover as well.  I purchased both the 5e and C&C versions at Gary Con and received my PDFs via Kickstarter.
Spend any time reading my blog or reviews and one thing is obvious. I love my spellcasters and familiars.  I have often felt the rules for familiars are quite under-developed in many games and familiars, or animal companions of any sort, are often an under-utilized or a forgotten aspect of the game and lives of the characters.
So far every 5th Edition game I have run the players have wanted an animal companion of some sort.  While the rules in the game are fine enough, there is plenty of room for improvement.  Thankfully, the Troll Lords believe the same thing.
I have mentioned that this book is an update and replacement to their Book of Familiars, it is, and it is more than that.

A quick look over the table of contents reveals that we are getting an animal companion for every class.  I feel that this appropriate and looking forward to reading the details.
Now before I go on I do want to point out that unlike some third-party books this one is NOT "plug and play".  You must make plans to add these animal companions from the start.  In one game I tried to tack on these rules in an on-going game and ran into some issues.  In another game, I used this from the start and everything went much more smoothly.  I guess think about it as getting a real-life pet.  You are going to do a little work and thought beforehand.  Once I did this THEN adding these to an ongoing game was much easier.  This is NOT like adding a new spell or magic item to your game, this is a new, but highly compatible sub-system.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Here the purpose of the book is laid out and how the authors made certain decisions on how to incorporate this new material into the game.  There is a section here that bares repeating since I have heard this complaint online.
A WORD OF EXPLANATION: This book requires that you have access to the three core rulebooks for the 5th edition rules, or at very least to the Basic Rules document that is freely available online. Throughout this book, we have used the terms ‘CK,’ and “Castle Keeper” to indicate the game master or person running the game, and ‘player character’ or ‘PC’ to refer to the characters created for the game. In addition, when you see terms like, “Game Master’s Guide” or “5th Edition Monster Tome,” these refer to the Core Rulebooks for the 5th Edition fantasy rules set.
So if you see "CK" or "Castle Keeper" in this book, it's not shoddy editing, but a design choice.  Hey, they like CK better than GM.  And since they can't say DM then CK is just as good as anything else.
There are rules to what an OGL publisher can and can't say, so I can't fault them here.

Here the other sub-systems are described.
Advantages.  Advantages are Feats. They are gained the same way and used, mostly, in the same way.  The difference in wording here (at least for me) helps differentiate the "feats" from this book from all the other feats you can get in the Core rules or other publishers.  In play, this has been a boon since I know immediately that an Advantage on a sheet means something from this book and not another book on my shelf. 
Paths. Time has been kind to Troll Lords here.  When this book first came out in 2017 not a lot of 3P publishers were doing paths yet and there was some confusion about what these were.  Now everyone has a new path (read: sub-class, kit, path, option) for the 12 core classes.   These CAN slot right into a game like anything else from any 3PP.
Tricks. Things your animal companion can do.
Rituals. How you can get your animal companion.  I mean there has to be some magic right?
New Familiars and Animals.  Kinda what it says on the tin to be honest.

Animal Companion vs. Familiar.  While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend.  A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC.  Animal Companions are free willed, familiars are not.

Chapter 1 also covers the basics of familiars. A point. A familiar/Animal companion "character" sheet would be GREAT here, but there isn't one.  Ah well, can have everything I guess.

The list of Advantages (again, these are just like Feats) are presented.  There are more here and some might complain about giving up a Feat or Ability advancement for a Familiar, but these are all quite balanced in my experience.  You give up one "power" (feat, advancement) for another.   Quite implicit in 5th Edition's design really.  Not only that it is actually quite elegant once you use it.

The best part about this?  You can take the Summon Familiar Advantage/Feat multiple times (Wizards get it for free at first level) so you can have multiple familiars.  I don't do multiple familiars often, but when I do, I really want to do it.  Though my son runs a game with this book and he describes the group of PCs and their companions as a "traveling zoo".   One girl even has a sheep as an animal companion.  Why? No idea. But this book supports it.

Another great piece of advice from Chapter 1 bears repeating (coping) here.
Give yourself a visual reminder of your familiar’s presence. Write “REMEMBER THE FAMILIAR” to a Post-It note and stick it to the table in front of you. Or make it a point to buy and use a miniature for your familiar.
Good advice. I am a fan of the Wardlings minis from WizKids.


or getting a custom mini with a familiar from Hero Forge.


Chapters 2 through 13 all work in a similar fashion.
Each core class is covered with attention given to special Animal Companions, Familiars or Mounts as appropriate.  Different animals are discussed and a new Path is given that focuses on having an animal companion.

For example, the Barbarian (the last class you might think needs a familiar) has the Nature Fetish Path and the Horseman Path (Dothraki anyone?) The Barbarian chapter is quite good really in that it really shows that animals really do need to be a bigger part of a barbarians' (and all characters) lives.   Reading this chapter has made me want to play a barbarian for the first time EVER since they became an option to me in 1985-1986 or so.  No content just to talk about familiars and paths, the barbarian chapter also covers special mounts.

The other chapters are as equally robust.  There are sections on the Paladin's mount and Ranger's companions but also familiars for rogues and clerics and others that you might not think need animal companions.  I particularly like the Rogue's path, the Shadow Pact.  How's that work?  Well, Rogues can take creatures of shadow as familiars!  Tell me that is not cool.

As expected the familiars of the Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard are ALL very, very different from each other and really reflect what the classes do now.  Back in the 3e days Wizards and Sorcerer wre 100% interchangeable in terms of role.  The differences were largely fluff.  Since 4e this is less true and now in 5e they are very different sorts of classes.  In 4e Sorcerers and Warlocks filled similar roles.  Again in 5e they are very different. This book reflects the new 5e differences.
Naturally there can be overlap.  The chapter on Wizards talks about how the Wizard rituals can be used by sorcerers for example. 

Appendix A: Familiars and Companions. This covers the familiars and "normal" animals in 5e Stat blocks.
Appendix B: New Monsters. New monsters.
Appendix C: New Spells. New spells, as expected.
Likewise, Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts.

Appendix E though is something different.  This covers Dragon Riders.  While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional.
This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others.  If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional".  And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game.  If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use.
If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my 5e games. My son uses it in the games he has run so much that I have not seen the book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book?  I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions or all the way up to Dragon Riders.
This is one of my 3PP books for 5e. One of the best really.

I should also point out that this book is a stretch goal for the Amazing Adventures 5E RPG Kickstarter.  Pledge at the $55 level and you can get a copy of this book.  Which is fantastic if you ask me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Magic School: Fast Times at Magic High

A group of dangerous 5th Year students.
I spent some time over the weekend playing the new Wizards Unite and working out some details of my Magic School campaign.

I am still going with the idea of a Magical High School/College, where young wizards go to learn about spell casting.   While I had been playing around with the idea of a Basic-era game, in particular, a BECMI one, my oldest son pointed out that D&D 5e might actually work out better.

For starters, the unified XP table is a big boon.  If I was planning to do cohort classes then having everyone the same level is a good thing. Now I might want to use some "negative" levels to represent their learning, but not many.

In D&D5 you need 300 XP to get to level 2. No complaining about 5e here, the XP scale for characters and monsters are different and there are good design philosophies behind this.

But what if I added a couple of levels before that.
Say to get to level B from level C you need 50 XP.
Then to get to level A from B you need 100 XP.
Then to go to level 1 from level A you need 150 XP.

Similar to the Cavalier in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.
Heck, I would not even mind making it a little more.  Level 3 requires 900 XP and Level 4 needs 2,700 XP.  So there is a jump.  Sure I could redo the whole thing, but I want this to live in a world where a kid can pick up a sword and soon be a level 1 fighter.

D&D 5 also gives me more spellcasting classes to work with.
In fact, my son worked it out like this:
Bards = Band Kids
Clerics = Religious Kids
Druids = Nature/Hippie/Stoner kids
Sorcerers = Jocks/Privileged kids (since their magic is innate)
Wizards = Science geeks
Warlocks = Goth Kids

Also, all these classes have a full range of spell options from Cantrips to 9th level.  All have more than one spell at 1st level and there is even some cross over between the spells.
For levels C, B, and A (or eventually Freshman, Sophmore, Junior, Senior, Graduate if I can work it out) would learn spellcasting basics and other curricula I have planned.
OR  I just keep it as-is and levels/years are 1 to 5.

Quentin Coldwater: "We are all fucked in our own way, as always."
Eliot Waugh: "Magic doesn't come from talent, it comes from pain."
When I brought this up to my son he reminded me that while a 5th wizard has some power, they are not really powerhouses.  They are less effective than Harry Potter and his friends were in the later books. We discussed some of the monsters that a level 5 wizard could take on solo and with 4 other wizards.  I am pretty happy about what I heard.

So maybe I want to do a Level 0, this the first year in Magic School. You are 13 years old and you know two cantrips.  You get the "Magic School" background with some bonus to your Arcana skill.  So for a five-year curriculum, you graduate at level 4 with the "Graduate of Magic School" feat.

Year (age) Level XP Notes
1 (13) 0 0 Initiate, Magic School Background
2 (14) 1 100 Freshman
3 (15) 2 300 Sophomore
4 (16) 3 900 Junior
5 (17) 4 2,700 Senior, Magic School Graduate Feat

I like this. This works well for my needs. I'll choose different words for "Freshman" etc later.  Maybe take something from the Hermetic Traditions.

Going with 5e though also means I would either have to drop my High Witchcraft idea OR make one for 5e.
But it also means I can use material from the Amazing Adventures 5e book.

Adventures
I guess the big thing about Magic School is what sort of adventures could students have?
Well...lots really!  I mean just grabbing from popular media of the last few years we have Harry Potter, the Magicians, Charmed, pretty much every show on the CW (and formerly the WB), not to mention years of public schooling, college, grad school, teaching for god know how long and developing curricula full time.  Of course, not all of that is going to work here.

I am going to take a cue from the work I did on the Buffy RPG, I'll set up each year/level as a "season" with some adventures as "episodes". There would be a season-long arc with a "big bad" with several "monster of the week" episodes sprinkled about.  My son already came up with one of the "monster of the week" ones, "Ferris Bueller's (Magic School) Day Off".

Fans of the Buffy RPG might remember the "Djinn Arc" we were doing, I could adapt that for a later season.  I am also going to steal a page from the Carmilla web series and do a missing student arc for Year 1.  Cause what else says whacky school hijinks like new students being sacrificed to some god/demon/old one?

Also, I am planning to play with the idea of these new classes.
"The Great School of Magic has for the first time in its history opened its doors to spellcasters other than wizards.  While clerics and bards had been welcomed on a limited basis, now the doors are thrown wide to the likes of warlocks, sorcerers, druids, and others."

The old guard is not at all happy about this and the changes to what they see as "the rules".

Am I making fun of grognards and others here that don't like 5e? Yeah. I am.

I need a group of kids/students/faculty to provide antagonism to the new students but I did not want to limit that antagonism to just based on classes (PHB class, not level or class level, wow I use "class" a lot in this.)

Also, I need to come up with a good name for this school.  Though it occurs to me I have written a lot of this material already for different games.  For example, my adventure "Mid-Semester Night's Nightmare" was done with Elizabeth Bathory in mind.  I can easily replace her with Darlessa.  Come to think of it that adventure ALSO dealt with missing students.  Given I wrote that in the mid 2000s I would not be stealing from Carmilla at all. 

There. My Big Bad for Series/Season/Year 1 is Darlessa.

Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Magic School: Idle Thoughts

Been busy this week.  I am part of a team that is building a new Masters of Social Work program.  It is great because this time I am NOT in charge of it, one of my really qualified co-workers is heading it up and I am really looking forward to working with him in his "Senior" role.  We are the same level so this is a nice switch and will give me some freedom to work creatively at a more "on the ground" level.  Last time our roles were reversed and he got to do the cool fun stuff while I had to mind all the details!
Remember, the reward for hard work is more hard work.

I was in my home office yesterday and two minutes before our video conference meeting started I noticed that my notebook was still out in my car.  So I grabbed the closest thing, my son's D&D notebook.  While sitting through the meeting I keep a set of parallel notes on D&D-ish social work program.  If is SOOO half baked right now and may never, ever see the light of day. But I was amused.

But it got me thinking on larger Magic School ideas and how they tie into my desire of "Back to Basics" this year.

Bruce Heard is over at his blog and online quietly building all sorts of great stuff for his Calidar world. Recently his big project is one I am REALLY dying for; Calidar On the Wings of Darkness. This product will include his magic school for his country of wizards.  Bruce gave us much of what we know about the Great School of Magic located in Glantri City.  If that work is any clue, add 32 more years of game development and writing and that gives me a hint of what we might see in On the Wings of Darkness.

His latest post also helps me figure out which flavor of Basic I am planning to use.  While my great love is B/X Molday/Cook/Marsh D&D, a strong  case has been made for BECMI flavor of Basic.  Plus I have my snazzy new Rules Cyclopedia thanks to POD so this is a good thing for me.
I just like the idea of crazy Magic School hijinks using the Basic rules.

Speaking of the Great School of Magic.  A new-to-me blog, the Breath of Mystara, pointed out a great resource to me, a 555 page PDF on the Great School of Magic.

Seriously that is a lot of material.

Another interesting bit that came up for me yesterday was this fun little character creator for making your own Hogwarts student.
https://www.deviantart.com/hapuriainen/art/Hogwarts-student-maker-302435099

For fun, I did one of me and my iconic witch Larina.  This would have been back when she had brown eyes and her hair was a bit darker.



For my magic school, I have not thought of "houses" really. but think about how important they are to the Harry Potter world and fandom.  EVERYONE has a house they think they belong to.   In my mind, I was more focused on the "Colleges" which is what we did in actual college/university and grad school.

I have also been following Dave Chapman's discussions on a Harry Potter RPG (hypothetical RPG that is) and taking a lot of his advice to heart.

Now I need to work more on my idea of "High Witchcraft", but more on that later.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Magic Kids for Magic School

I was talking with my kids this weekend about our Magic School game.  Since I first proposed the idea to them they have both discovered and fell in love with Call of Cthulhu.  As such my plans have drifted a bit and my magic school is more Miskatonic University rather than Hogwarts.

I'm still going to stick with B/X era Basic for this.  With all the material I have and what I want to do it just seems to be the better fit.

Over the weekend I went to my FLGS and we found these minis that would be PERFECT for a magic school game.




They are from WizKids and are called Wardlings. Each one is a kid with an animal companion.

We did not grab them all but we did get these based solely on their pets. 
They are great little sculpts and the pets are cute as hell.
I just had to have that winged cat for my witches.

Love the little moon design on his fur.

Currently, there are two waves out, Wardlings 1 and Wardlings 2.  I have heard that there is a third one on the way, but I can't find confirmation of that.

Can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #167

Moving ahead to one of the "newer" issues in my collection.  This comes to us from the distant past of March 1991.  I was a senior in college, but would take another year to finish up my honors courses, my minor and to take a few grad school classes before getting into grad school.  I was not really playing much at this point, but still buying and reading a bunch of Ravenloft games and books.
I believe by this time I had printed out the first solid draft of my witch class for 2nd Ed and was revising it more.  So without further ado here is March 1991 and this is issue #167 of This Old Dragon.

To the cover.  Ok. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate faces on inanimate objects? Cars, trains, especially airplanes. But more than anything TREES!  I think it some deep-seated childhood trauma related to both "Wizard of Oz" and "From Hell it Came".   My family will taunt me with it by giving trees with faces on them for Halloween.  Anyway.  The girl on here looks she wandered off from a Clyde Caldwell cover and is slumming here.  The artist is Fred Fields.

You can tell this is the 90s Dragon because of all the ads.  Mind you I am not complaining; I like the ads.  But there are more. More pages in general too.

Given this is the era near 2nd Edition the Dragons all have themes.  This one is the Wilderness.  I liked the themed issues, gave me something to look forward too.

The Editorial is an interesting one with addresses for you to send something to anyone serving in the US or British military.  I guess this is the time of Operation Desert Storm.

Up first is ...holy shit! it's the OSR's very own +Joseph Bloch! (hmm auto-tagging is not working on this). He is up with an article right in his wheel-house, See the Pomarj - and Die!  The three page article (four with cover image) is a bit of history on the Pomarj. It even has some details about the Slave Lords and plenty of old-school tables.   This is some good stuff that I wish I had known about when running the A-series recently. Ah well.

David Howery is next with Back to the Age of Mammals, taking us back to when the dinosaurs did their disappearing act and the mammals took over. There are a ton of great, untapped and underused creatures.  One of my favorites is even here, the Amphicyon.  I used my own version for a primitive were-wolf/were-bear hybrid back when I ran Palace of the Silver Princess.  This really makes this issue a stand out in my mind.

The Ecology of the Su-Monster would have been something I would have eaten up back in the day. Matthew Schutt gives us an updated version of these monsters and they work.  I always liked these little monsters. I ran an adventure where the locals worshiped as a god.

Gregg Chamberlain is next with the Dragon's Bestiary with various plant-based monsters.

Curses are Divine* But their effects on your fantasy hero are horrible! by Mark Keavney which details major and minor divine curses.  This is not the curses of the 3rd level spell, these are special and really powerful.  Also detailed are the situation where someone can find themselves so cursed.

TSR Previews tells us what is hot for March 1991 and beyond. On the list is RA2 Ravenloft Ship of Horror, a favorite of mine. Though I would always call it "Ship of Fools" after the Robert Plant song.

Arcane Lore by Jeffrey Pettengill has some expansions to the 2nd Ed Necromancer specialty wizard and necromancy spells.

Bruce Heard is back with more Princess Ark.  I am planning on collecting these and using some of it for my BECMI Magic School game.

Role of Computers covers the best of 1990.  Again, it's hard to review a review of the "State of the Art" of 27 years ago.

Sage Advice covers some Monstrous Compendium Vol II questions and the perennial question of how do I find a gaming group.

Peter Trueman as what he calls "a more realistic approach to fantasy" in Just Give me Money!  It's a long article that details maybe than you would want to know about coins.  Or maybe it is sort of the detail you like.  For me, it is more log-work than I like in my games.  Once I ate this stuff up.

Marvel-Phile deals with some of Spider-man's foes from across the pond in England in The Lads from Liverpool.  Spiders and Beatles. cute.

Nice big and water-damaged ad for Chill (2nd Edition).

(gotta be honest here. This issue is testing the mettle of my allergy drugs!)

Thomas Kane gives us some NPCs from historical references for an Oriental Adventures game in Lords of the Warring States. We are still in that odd overlap time of 1st and 2nd Editions.

Con Calendar is huge this month.

Ed is back. Am I at a point yet where I can say "Ed" and you all know I mean Ed Greenwood?  Instead of his normal conversation with Elminster, he ends up talking to Laeral of Waterdeep.  I do not begrudge Ed this, it is always entertaining and even when I didn't like the Realms I liked these articles.  This time he is covering the Undermoutain - the King of All Dungeons.  Ok. So. It's an ad for the new Undermountain boxed set.  Yeah, I can't even be irritated by that.

Role of Books from John C. Bunnell has the best of late winter/early spring 1991 including one that is STILL on my TBR pile, Deryni Magic by Katherine Kurtz.  Yeah, Grad School was not conducive to pleasure reading.

And just like that, we are at Dragonmirth.   The big feature is The Twilight Realm, which is on part 11.  I really know nothing about that strip, I should look into it more.

Ah, here are the small ads and classifieds.

Ok. Not a packed issue, but a lot of great bright spots like Joe's and Bruce's contributions.
I wonder what else I have from this time? Will be fun to see!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Campaign Updates:2018

Work has me crazy busy, but this is a good thing.  The downside is I have not had the time to blog as much as I want or even get in the campaign prep in at night.  So I thought I would kill two birds today and see where I am in my games.



Active Games

The Dragon Slayers
A 3.x game that was briefly 5e and now fully converted to 1st Edition AD&D.  The characters were trapped in Baba Yaga's Hut for nearly a year. They freed the Old Crone and her daughter Elena the Fair.  Up next the final battle. I am using the Tom Moldvay adventure Twilight Calling for this.

Next are my three interlinked 5th edition games collectively known as Come Endless Darkness. Tharizdûn is returning to the multiverse and the PCs of the three campaigns need to stop him.

The Order of the Platinum Dragon
The Order has defeated all the giants and are now wandering the Underdark looking for the Drow. The big bads here are Lolth and Graz'zt.  Graz'zt is setting up Lolth much like he is described doing in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (for 3.5e).  I try to focus on classic monsters in this one.

Second Campaign
The Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign have just entered the Forbidden City. Here the big bad is Demogorgon.  Here the focus is on other creatures that might not see normal games.

Into the Netir Vale
Known by my kids as the Orcus campaign. This is my revived and converted 4e campaign brought over whole cloth. I might lessed the involvement with the Raven Queen and play up Shar since this is part of the Forgotten Realms in my house.

All three games will meet up at the Temple of Elemental Evil to battle it out with the risen Tharizdûn.  So roughly 18 characters of 18th to 20th level.  It's gonna be wild.

Inactive/On-hold Games
These games are all inactive for a number of reasons.

Star Trek: Voyages of the USS Protector
This game is will be using White Star with my own "Black Star" rules modifications.  I have the first adventures ready to go, "The Stars Are Right" and "These Are the Voyages".  I have two more nearly ready "Ghost Ship" and "Abraxas Down".  I want to do two more.  I have been scribbling notes on rule changes and feel like the rest I can do while the game is moving along. 
What is really slowing me down is the wiring of the LED lights I want to put into my USS Protector Model!

Spirit of '76
On indefinite hold.

Hero's Journey to Middle Earth
This one is requiring some significant reading on my part.  As my first REALY foray into Middle Earth as a game world I want to do it right.

Magic School 
This one is on hold till I am done with Come Endless Darkness. Since this one will use D&D Rules Cyclopedia and I really want it to feel like a separate game.   Plus things that happen in CED will change the world of the Magic School and I don't know what those are yet!

War of the Witch Queens
This is the higher level version of the Magic School kids.  What happens here will also be determined by what the PCs do in CED.  I have all the adventures for this, just not the end game.



The Incredibly Awesome (and Not At All Made-Up) Adventures of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle!
Huh...ok this one was a little bit of a joke, but I keep getting asked about it.  I do have one adventure worked out that introduces the PCs to the world. Called "Damn It Barry Allen!" it sets up Booster and Blue as the true heroes of the DC world, it's just that no one can remember them.

I still have to get my new Blue Rose campaign going.  I ran the first adventure, Kingdom of Rain, and it went great.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Magic School: So you Want to Go to Magic School?

No gaming this past weekend.  Thought about some of the entry requirements for my B/X|BECMI Magic School campaign.

Entry Requirements
Age: 13 (0-level, 2 hp+con bonus, see below)
Minimum Intelligence: 16 (15 in conditional admit)
Demonstrate the ability to cast one spell (cantrip).
Interview with the School.  (Role=play/first adventure)

Ability Scores
Ability Scores are rolled per normal; 3d6 in order*. (Considering 2d6+3 for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution).
I will allow the highest ability to be placed in Intelligence without penalty.
Each year the student will get 1 point to place in an ability of their choice. Max is 18.

According to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, humans with an Intelligence ability of 16 or more knows at least 4 languages.  Common, Alignment and two others.  These two (or more) additional languages will be learned in the school.  Typically students learn Elven and Draconic.  Other, more exotic languages can be learned by 3rd and 4th-year students.

Cantrips
I will have a universal system for learning cantrips.  If so, then the first spell the students know might be a Cantrip.

Students can take seven courses per year and one over the summer.

First Year Classes
Physical Conditioning I:  Each morning will begin with exercise and other physical conditioning training.  Often a wizard will be required to stand in a magic circle for hours on end chanting. Weak in the body is as dangerous as weak in the will here.  Students enrolled (mandatory for First Years) will have the full amount of hp for their Hit Die per Level (typically 4 + con bonus).

Herbs and their Properties: Necessary for material component understanding and a prerequisite for Alchemy and Magical Theory and Thought II.

Magical Theory and Thought I: Double course. Topics cover why and how magic works.

Ecclesiastic Studies I: The nature of gods and the planes.  Required for First years, optional after that.

Elvish I: Learning to speak, read and understand the major dialects of Elvish.

Mathematics:  Necessary for advanced Magic Theory and Alchemy.

End of the first year they are 1st level and know 1 1st level spell.

Summer Apprenticeships
Here students can get practical application knowledge.  Internships are on a first come, first served basis though faculty can also make placements.

Second Year Classes
PCII: Students continue their physical conditioning classes.

Intermediate Herbology: Plants helpful and harmful.

Ecclesiastics II: Advanced topics including the nature of Immortality, transmigration of the soul and the nature of undead. Required for Ecclesiastic and Necromancy students.

Magical Theory and Thought II: The nature of arcane magic, the use of material components. Discussion and case studies of the works of famous, but esoteric wizards.

Creatures I: The three textbooks affectionately called Monster Manual, Fiend Folio and Creature Catalog.

Draconic I: Learning to speak, write and understand the major dialects of Draconic.
Elvish II: Elvish and it's relationship to magic are covered.

Survey and Seminar: (half term) Covers the Colleges of the school and their disciplines.
Elective: (half term) First Elective choice.

End of the second year they are 2nd level and know 2 1st level spells.

Third Year Classes
Third Year is the year they take their specialization. These will depend on which "Colleges" I create.

Ecclesiastics III & Magical Theory and Thought III: This combine double class covers the natures of gods, deities, and spell granting powers including demon lords, Dukes of Hell and the Fey Lords.

PCIII: Advanced finger conditioning.  Known by fourth years as "the days of pain".

Draconic II: Learning to recognize and speak the "vulgar" dialects of Draconic.
Elvish III: Conversational High Elvish and Sylvan Elvish are covered in depth.

Creatures II: Exploration of the major works including the Ecologies.

End of the third year they are 3rd level and know 2 1st level spells and 1 2nd level spell.

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Year Classes

These will be in the student's major area of study.

Courses that continue but are not required at this point are Ecclesiastics, Magical Theory & Thought, Draconic, and Elvish.

End of the fourth year they are 4th level and know 2 1st level spells and 2 2nd level spells.
End of the fifth year they are 5th level and know 2 1st level spells, 2 2nd level spells, and 1 3rd level spell.
End of the sixth year they are 6th level and know 2 1st level spells, 2 2nd level spells, and 2 3rd level spells.

Fields of Study (so far)
Alchemy
Bardic Magic
Dragonolgy/Dragonmancy
Necromancy
High Witchcraft

I might add more.  I think I am going to need a good "Basic Era" Alchemist class and a better Bard.  So far I am not 100% on any of the Bards I have seen so far.

Part of the plan is to use any and all the magic books I have in my collection, I have a lot of fun stuff and this would be a good chance to use them. 
With all the games I worked on over the years I figure I have written somewhere near 800 new spells. Might be fun to use all of that in one game.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Magic School: I have Hogwarts on my Miskatonic U!

Mulling some ideas over lunch today.

My kids have both over the years expressed an interest in more Lovecraft and Cthulhu themed games but not really wanting to go full on Call of Cthulhu.

So a few things came to mind right away.

- San Scores and Sanity rules.  As a former QMHP and someone with degrees in psychology, I have been largely critical of most of the "sanity" rules I see in games.  In fact, most of them suck.  My son is using an elegant option for sanity. Your wisdom modifier plus your constitution modifier plus 10.   I will still use San points as Sanity x 5.

- The College of Dreamers is gone.  If I am using the 2nd Ed Glantri school of magic as my base, then I am going to say that the School of Dream was destroyed last year.  No one knows why and because of that attendance and new admits are way down.  What happened of course is they connected to the Dream Lands and the Far Realm (mixing my CoC and D&D 3 terms) and it killed them all.  This is the first phase of the return of the Old Ones.  Totally stealing this idea from the Wizards 101 MMORPG.  This is the big mystery of the 1st Years, what happened to the Dream College (not to be confused with the Dream Academy).  They won't learn till later in the term or even next year.

- With the Dream College gone, the School lessens admit standards.  What this means is Bards are now allowed. I am even considering a type of healer.

- All characters will have a Psionic wild power.   This is another side effect of the return of the Old Ones.  I just have not figured out if I am going to use the wild psionic powers of Basic Psionics Handbook or Realms of Crawling Chaos.  I am going to use both books in other ways.

So this game will have much more horror influences even though I am planning on avoiding using demons and devils for the most part.  Undead will be fine. It is Glantri afterall.  I will add some of elements from Ravenloft, though "Gothic Horror" and "Cosmic Horror" are not always a good mix.

Not 100% sure how this will all fit into the "War of the Witch Queens", but I have lots of time to figure that one out.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Magic School: Going Back to Glantri

Curse my gamemastering ADHD!

So despite the fact that I have not one, not two, but THREE D&D 5th Edition games going, I was working out some details of my Magic School game using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

So last night I pulled out my GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri by +Bruce Heard and my Glantri: Kingdom of Magic.

I thought I might run it set in Glantri's past, 800 or so AC.  OR even 1000 AC which is close to the present day for the Gazetteer.  My current year is 1414-something AC.

But there is so much great stuff here.

This is going to focus 100% on the magic school so the political goings-on will be part of the background noise.

Though I DO want to expand on my whole Ravenloft is from Mystara/Glantri idea some more too and introduce a young professor of Alchemy from Boldavia, Strahd von Zarovich. Gives me an excuse/hook to drop in Ravenloft II.

But back to the school.

There are the Seven Secret Crafts of Magic in the Glantri School of Magic; Alchemy, Dracology, Elementalism, Illusionism, Necromancy, Cryptomancy (rune magic), and Witchcraft.

These were restructured in the 2nd Ed book, notably Witchcraft becoming Wokanism and Illusion dropped in favor of Dream Magic.  I am keeping Dream Magic from one and Witchcraft from the other.

I am thinking of adding others.  I would love to add a School of Healing; an exception to the normal rule of priests/clerics.  And MAYBE Druids.   I know they don't fit, but I like them.

Couple things I am considering.  Back in the Day I had a wizard character, Phygora, who was a
Glantri trained mage, but he "disappeared".  In reality, the mini I used belonged to my old DM.  He recently sold them all to me so now I have all these REALLY old lead minis including a recently repainted Phygora.  So guess who is now the new Headmaster!  Dosen't matter if I set this in the present or the past since in my game Phygora became something of a time-traveler.

I know that this campaign will go from level 1 to 7 (or 0 to 6), after that I want to move it over to my War of the Witch Queens.   I was talking with +Brian Isikoff this morning and he is considering doing something with Magic School grads and Bruce Heard's Calidar.  I think that is a fantastic idea!
Flying magic ships, flying circuses, I am SO there.

I just need more time to play!
But in the meantime, I can work out all these details.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Joy of Basic D&D & Magic School

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of ALL editions of D&D.  I have played them all, and all to a significant degree.  But my start, and in many ways, my true love is Basic D&D.  B/X flavor in particular.  With the D&D Rules Cyclopedia now out in POD I am going to take some time to go back and play some of the D&D that I played the least; BECMI.

I have had some ideas for various "Basic" games over the years.  I want to take my 4e Campaign and reboot that as a BECMI one, but instead, I morphed it into a 5e one.  I still want my War of the Witch Queens to be a B/X adventure, but it really could become a BECMI one since I really would love to take advantage of all 36 levels that BECMI offers me.   But in truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do until this morning.

A couple of posts on Facebook in various "old school" groups has new players, maybe ones more familiar with Post-TSR D&D, lamenting that Magic-Users/Wizards only get one spell at 1st level.
While this is familiar ground for old-school gamers, I do sympathize with these players.
Some of this for me goes back to the 4th Edition games. In 4e a 1st level wizard is quite competent with a number of spells they can use right off the bat.  In a way, it is what you would expect from a graduate from a magic school.  But in other ways, it also makes a less compelling "story".  4e Wizards might be closer to Harry Potter, or Harry Dresden, but they are not close to the Luke Skywalker model of the new adventurer with plenty talent but no training.
This train of thought got me thinking about Basic and BECMI in particular as a means to "grow into" 4e.  A lot of my analysis was on how much magic and "Combat power" a single wizard has from levels 1 to 6 in BECMI and compare that to 4e.  The goal was to have levels 1 through 6 to be training and then levels 7 to 36 map roughly onto 4e's levels 1 to 30.  The math is not perfect, as to be expected, but there is enough wiggle room that I liked it.

Well. I am not doing 4e now.  But the idea of levels 1 to 6 as "training levels" still appeals to me.


So my plan now is this.  I am going to create a magic school (long overdue really) and the characters are all magic users.  They enter the school at age 13 at level 1 and spend the next six years working towards graduation witch each year being the next level. They will graduate at age 19 at level 7 to start adventuring.

I have a lot of ideas of what needs to happen, but I also need to figure out how to fill up 80,000 xp worth of experiences that fit with a school environment.   Along the way, they can pick up specialties (Necromancy, Enchantment and so on).  Students will take classes in languages, finger position, and diction in addition to ones on Magical Theory and Thought.  I also see students working on magic items and potions.  This is where all those magic items and cursed items come from.

I am also going to borrow heavily from The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Ed. I am also going to borrow some ideas from theGlantri books, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri (Basic) and Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e).


I *might* even set it all in Glantri, but I am also kind of wanting to set in my new campaign setting of West Haven.  Setting it in Glantri though has a lot of appeal to me.

Obvious sources for this are the Harry Potter books and movies, but also the Magicians books and TV series, the Magic schools from Charmed and Wizards of Waverly Place, various comics like the X-Men and Teen Titans and Miskatonic University.

I am going to give this one some serious thought, there is also so much material for this out there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hex and Skylla's Magic School Reunion

I am still enjoying the release of the Glantri Gazeteer on DNDClassics.com.  One of the really fun things for me was of course the Magic School.  Loved the idea of a huge magical university, esp since I had gone off to University at that point myself.

The Seven Secret Crafts of the magic school also grabbed my attention.  They were Alchemy, Dracology, Elementalism, Illusion, Necromancy, Cyrptomancy and Witchcraft.  No surprise it got my notice.

I always wanted to try these out in a game, but by the time I had purchased this book I was moving on 2nd ed and gaming and grad school didn't mix so well.

With this new release I thought I would come back to it!  And I have two perfect characters to try out, Skylla and Hex.  

So former BFFs and now Frenemies have come back to Glantri's Magic School on their 10th year reunion. Wacky hijinks ensue. Yes. You D&D game is not complete if you can't have at least one Wacky Hijinks adventure.  To get even crazier why not have Aleena and Morgan Ironwolf there as well. All four could have been living in the apartment when going to their various schools. Sure and Skylla dated Bargle. 
Honestly, the more I think about it the more I like the idea of a "Class Reunion" style adventure.  The PCs come back to celebrate 10 years since they graduated/left home and some local guy gets the idea of disrupting the scene.   That might become my next Gen Con adventure.

This isn't too far out of an idea. The Glantri book itself suggests a "Magic School" game where all the PCs are 12 year old 1st level magic users.

Anyway. I am thinking 10 year since I am keeping Skylla at level 7. I'll use Hex at 7 as well since that would give me a good bit of comparison.  These builds will use the BECMI rules (not my more familiar B/X or Witch rules).

Both characters are basically 7th level Magic-users as per the BECMI Expert Set.

Skylla, 7th Level Magic-User (Witchcraft)
Strength: 9
Dexterity: 11
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 15*
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 8 (down from 11)

Hit Points:  25
Alignment: Chaotic
AC: 3 (Ring of Protection +1)

Witchcraft Circle Powers
First Circle: Brews and Philters, Silver Tongue
Second Circle: Doll Curse, Witch's Charm

Spells 
First: Charm Person, Light, Read Magic
Second: Knock, Levitate
Third: Hold Person,  Lightning Bolt
Fourth: Dimension Door

Magic Items
Ring of Protection +1, Dagger +1, Staff of Enchantment, demon helm (+1 saves vs. demons and charming magic, +1 AC)


Hex, 7th Level Magic-User (Necromancy)
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 9
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 13
Charisma: 15

Hit Points: 30
Alignment: Neutral (maybe a little Chaotic)
AC: 6 (talisman of protection)

Necromancy Circle Powers
1st Circle: Protection from Undead
2nd Circle:

Spells 
First: Dark, Shield, Sleep
Second: Levitate, Phantasmal Force
Third: Fly, Hold Person
Fourth: Ice Wall

Magic Items
Talisman of Protection (AC 6)

Not bad builds. There must be something to this CHA reduction; I have seen it too many times now.  I am not a fan of it, especially in older D&D, but I guess people like how it works.
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